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Food & Wine

'Pampered' tart combines savory and sweet


Photos Courtesy of Blanche Shaheen
Blanche Shaheen’s Baba Ghanoush Tart combines smoky, sweet, salty and nutty flavors.

’Tis the season for dinner parties and indulgences, when turduckens or, worse, piecakens end up on some entertaining menus. A piecaken is three different pies baked into a cake. But why not have just one so rich and flavorful that you won’t yearn for an extra pie or three?

As a food writer and host of the YouTube cooking show “Feast in the Middle East,” I usually feel extra pressure to step up to the plate (no pun intended) and really deliver on a unique dish that will wow all of my guests. One experimental afternoon I had all of the ingredients to make the eggplant dip baba ghanoush as well as a sack of almond meal – and my Baba Ghanoush Tart was born.

Baba ghanoush in Arabic means “pampered papa.” According to old Arabic folklore originating in Syria, a caring daughter mashed all of the food she cooked for her elderly toothless father, or baba, as he was unable to chew. One of the vegetables she mashed, with the addition of olive oil, lemon juice and tahini, was the precursor to today’s popular baba ghanoush.

For my Baba Ghanoush Tart, I deconstructed the ingredients and added a nutty, gluten-free crust made with the almond meal. The filling of creamy tahini, roasted tomatoes, caramelized onions and the topping of nuts and cheese create a dish that is all at once sweet and savory, creamy and nutty.

You can customize any ingredient to suit your taste. Don’t like almonds? Use cashew meal instead. Not an eggplant fan? Try roasting sliced zucchini or delicata squash. You can also replace the goat cheese with chunks of ricotta or shreds of Gruyere. Walnuts can be replaced with pine nuts.

This tart is brimming with colors and rich in textures and flavors. So while it can make a fanciful addition to your entertaining table, the leftovers also make a great lunch with a leafy salad.

Blanche Shaheen is a food blogger and journalist who lives in Los Altos. For more of her recipes with a Middle Eastern twist, visit feastinthemiddleeast.com. For additional holiday menu ideas, subscribe to Shaheen’s cooking tutorial channel at youtube.com/BlancheTV.

Baba Ghanoush Tart

For pastry shell (fits 9-inch tart pan)

• 1/2 teaspoon thyme, fresh or dried

• 2 cups almond meal

• 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

• 1 egg

• 2 tablespoons olive oil

• 1-2 tablespoons water (as needed)

For filling

• 1/4 cup tahini

• 2 Roma tomatoes, sliced

• 2 small Japanese eggplants, cut in 1-inch slices

• Salt and pepper, to taste

• Garlic powder (for sprinkling over vegetables)

• 1/4 cup goat cheese

• 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for brushing vegetables

• 2 onions, thinly sliced

• 1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Preparing tart shell

Combine flour, cheese and thyme and blend well.

Whisk egg and olive oil and incorporate in flour mixture. If mixture is too crumbly to pat into crust, add 1 tablespoon water at a time until mixture sticks together enough to press onto bottom of pie shell or tart pan. Mold dough into pie/tart shell using fingers.

Bake shell at 350 F 10 minutes, or just before it begins to brown.

Preparing filling

Slice tomatoes and eggplants, place on parchment paper (or nonstick mat) and sprinkle eggplants lightly with salt. Let eggplants sit approximately 30 minutes, then press out excess liquid with towel or cheesecloth.

Brush olive oil over all vegetables, season with garlic powder and pepper, and bake at 375 F 15 minutes.

Remove tomatoes from oven. Turn over eggplants and bake another 10 minutes.

While vegetables cook, caramelize onions. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in frying pan and add onions. Sauté on low to medium flame 15 minutes or until soft, brown and sweet, adding salt to taste.

Assembly

Remove tart shell from oven and cool. Using pastry brush, brush generous layer of tahini paste on shell. Layer caramelized onions in shell over tahini, then add tomatoes and eggplants. Sprinkle top with goat cheese and walnuts. Bake tart 10 minutes more at 350 F so that cheese becomes soft and a bit browned.

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